kitchen table math, the sequel: Matthew on National Journal

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Matthew on National Journal

right now


Barry Garelick said...

I'm happy to see Matthew as one of the insiders and posting there. Less happy that Steve Peha is posting there. Why do I consider him to be the Mel Gibson of education, you ask? OK, perhaps I'm too rough on these people, and I won't get into things he's written that are tantamount to nails on a blackboard, but I will quote you his opening line: "Let’s be honest, even though CCSSI is doing a great job,..."

Hold it right there. I've actually read their college readiness and career standards for math and am int he process of reviewing their grade by grade standards for math. They are not doing a great job despite what people in power are saying. Read Wurman's and Stotsky's criticisms of them for starters. It's all about "understanding". Students shall "understand" that multiplication of fractionsis blah blah blah. Yes, computation and procedural fluency continue to be no-no's and the ability to "explain" as in "explain how the algorithm works" or "explain how fraction multiplication works" has become the standard. Oh, really, don't get me started.

Catherine Johnson said...

even though CCSSI is doing a great job


Catherine Johnson said...

Even if they **are** doing a great job, a line like that has a whole other meaning besides: they are doing a great job.

Catherine Johnson said...

please explain

SteveH said...

Peha says:

"I think ECHS solves the “college- and career-readiness” issue more effectively than standards."

This is from the ECHS Initiative web site:

"Early college high school is a bold approach, based on the principle that academic rigor, combined with the opportunity to save time and money, is a powerful motivator for students to work hard and meet serious intellectual challenges. Early college high schools blend high school and college in a rigorous yet supportive program, compressing the time it takes to complete a high school diploma and the first two years of college."


I wish they would lay out all of their assumptions. maybe they don't even know what they are.

So, while my quite capable son is busting his butt with honors and AP classes in a regular high school, these other kids are getting a "rigorous" curriculum that allows them to finish high school and get college credit in a compressed time frame.

Wow. Who needs national standards that might force schools to fix their K-8 problems. We can just pretend that the problem doesn't exist and offer a carrot to motivate low income students to fix themselves. Apparently, (like so many other project-based learning techniques) the problem is just student motivation, not stinking bad curricula and teaching methods.

SteveH said...

"Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college."

"Students who pass but aspire to attend a selective college may continue with college preparatory courses in their junior and senior years, organizers of the new effort said."


This cements the idea that community colleges are the new high schools. Do these people think they are going to get something for nothing? What are they fixing about educating kids? Oops, I forgot. It's the kids' fault.

If you pass the 10th grade tests but don't want to go to college, will they still give you the high school diploma? Is it a deferred diploma? Is it equivalent to a GED?

This is like an accounting game. Nothing is different, but it sure looks different. I want my son to get community college credit for his junior and senior year honors and AP courses. They are saying that it's easier to go to community college.

ChemProf said...

Honestly, it can be. An AP or honors course at a good high school may be significantly more challenging than a college course at a weak community college -- especially if that course is a "college" course like "college algebra" or "introductory physics", which are remedial high school courses offered by community colleges.

(Beware, by the way, of "introductory" science courses at community colleges -- those are almost always preparatory courses for the actual college freshman level course, which is titled "general" or "for scientists and engineers". I have advised more than a few frustrated students who didn't get that, or who took nursing courses thinking they were acceptable for pre-med.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Apparently, (like so many other project-based learning techniques) the problem is just student motivation, not stinking bad curricula and teaching methods.

I just had to see that head the Comments queue.

momof4 said...

ChemProf, I agree. The kids in the AP classes at my older kids' HS were taking real college courses (preceded by the appropriate honors courses), in preparation for admission to Ivies and other highly-selective colleges. The local CC did not have that level of student preparation/achievement and the actual coursework reflected that, so that was not considered a viable option for the top kids. Of course, there were kids who took classes at the state university (flagship campus) or one of the many other very selective colleges in the area; those classes were very different from the CC offerings, largely because their student populations were very different.

SteveH said...

I've reread all of the responses and I am still astounded.

Prof. Kirp says:

"It’s a 'high expectations' model, and there’s suggestive evidence that—if the support is there—setting the bar high can lead to academic success."

"high expectations"!

But the best students will stay in high school so that they can get into "selective" colleges.

The driving problem for all of this do-gooder thinking are high school graduation statistics. Something has to be done! Rather than examine the problems carefully and trace each back to its source, they just assume that all it takes is a bigger carrot.

"-if the support is there-"

Right. How about the early grade support so that some kids will be prepared for Harvard or "selective" colleges and not the local community college. Damn it all! Will they once and for all start treating kids as individuals and not pretending that low expectations are high expectations? Most of the commenters are overjoyed at this concept. I'll call them statistical relativists.

They move the courses around and expect to get something from nothing. Sure, it might be motivating for some kids to see a faster path out of a horrible high school. Sure, it might motivate them to work harder, but why is all of the onus placed on the students? This doesn't fix teaching and curricula. It just tries to get kids to be happier about a bad education.

I'm all for alternate educational solutions and early college entrance, but those options should begin in Kindergarten. Don't force kids to wait until high school to get the hell out. Don't just gleefully limit them to a community college degree. Don't just assume that it's all about motivating the student. Once the excitement wears off, what do you have? You will have the same courses taught in the same way.

Our community college has a program that allows students to move to the university after two years without any loss of credits. So, what happens when one of these students is a 10th grade graduate of high school? What fairy dust will they use to get them to the level of kids who stayed in high school to get accepted at the selective university? The answer is that the early college kids will be in for an unhappy surprise. Either that, or you will have some really pissed-off regular high school students.

I want them to stop looking at numbers. I want them to look at bright little Suzie living in Detroit. I want them to see what she is put through day-after-day at school starting from Kindergarten. I want them to look at exactly what goes on in the classroom and what she is taught. I want them to look at the actual test questions and ask themselves why Suzie cannot learn this in 6+ hours a day. Suzie doesn't need people telling her that all she has to do is work harder.

And these are the people who are pushing "critical thinking" in schools?

SteveH said...

"What fairy dust will they use to get them to the level of kids who stayed in high school to get accepted at the selective university?"

This is what I said before and it bothers me. Either states think they can get something for nothing, or they think that there is a lot of nothing in high schools.

Our state is now pursuing this:

>“The Rhode Island Bachelors Degree in Three Program Act,” requires our two agencies “to establish a seamless credit-transfer system for high-school students and other policies” to encourage early enrollment and early college completion.

This means that you can get a bachelor's degree from our "selective" university in three years.

>"We believe that internationally benchmarked board examinations can be a powerful tool in preparing high-school students for college."

Our state is one of eight which will pilot these examinations.

"The board examinations will align with a complete curriculum of English, mathematics, science, civics/history, and the arts. Students who take these courses and pass the examinations will be eligible for early college enrollment."


I can't find details about this test, but I assume that it's more rigorous than a GED.

I also found this:

"Students who pass these examinations at the end of their sophomore year may also choose to remain in high school and take a program of study designed to prepare them for entrance into a selective college."

There is a problem here. Our university is selective. Many high school graduates with good SAT scores don't get accepted. But now, it seems, if you pass this test, the university will have to let you in.

Either high school matters or it doesn't. I could see this being done on a department by department basis, since some degrees require more and stronger courses, but not on a generic college basis.

Much of what my son will do in high school is about getting a seat in a selective college. It's not about whether he could handle the courses or not. As the college age population decreases, colleges will magically find that kids with lower SAT scores seem quite able to handle their courses.

In that sense, this is not about whether kids can handle college courses or not, but how many seats are available. If our state thinks that they can just add more seats, then they are telling our university that they can't be selective at all. They will have to be selective on a department (prerequisite) basis, not a college entrance basis. It might end up that a student could become a university student, but not qualify or make it through any degree program.

SteveH said...

Early high school graduation, early college, and college in three years program seem to be all over the board. Some even seem to conflict with themselves. Some emphasize savings in money - you get charged per year (not credit hour) in college, but you take enough courses to get done in three years. Some seem to offer incentives for those who aren't looking for a "selective" college. And all seem to use it as the big carrot that will fix education.

It's one thing to offer college credit to students taking AP and college courses in high school, but quite another to offer a fast entrance to college for students who get past some sort of minimal test.

Even at our community college level, there are easy degrees and difficult degrees. It's not about being a selective college or not. It's selective based on degree and course requirements.

Let's say that a student passes the high school test and starts going to the community college instead of becoming a junior in high school. Let's say that this student is bright enough to get through some tough math and science courses so that she transfers to the university's college of engineering after two years. Maybe she will need an extra semester or two to get in all of the courses she needs, but she will be at least a year ahead of the other students she left behind in high school. The students might end up being equal if those who stayed in high school were also receiving college credits for their AP classes.

Many programs, however, are geared to kids who are apparently not strong enough to go to a selective college. This is where they hope to get something for nothing. Either that, or they want to push these kids off to college and let the college do the dirty work.

Another way to look at it is that it's all about graduation statistics. Many kids don't graduate because high school is just so stinking bad. So, give them an early test and voila! they graduate. A nephew of mine is one of those. He kept meaning to take the GED, but never got around to it. The trick, then, is to include some sort of test like that as part of the regular classwork and force all kids to take it. Even if students stop going to class as juniors, if they have passed the test, then they are not considered to be dropouts.

Nothing has changed, but the numbers look better.

Catherine Johnson said...

And these are the people who are pushing "critical thinking" in schools?

This is a chronic frustration of mine.

Matthew K. Tabor said...

You guys have pointed out some of the things I wanted to write in my follow-up.

Then again, you can't follow-up when no one responds to you. Hopefully the NJ contributors will actually engage each other soon [I'm trying to do my part, but I'm brand new] to save us from the litany of press release-style opinions.

You guys are 110% right about courses not always being equivalent. No one in that debate explored the real implications of equivalency/recriprocity/etc. - which means all sorts of garbage-quality courses would count the same as real ones.

Something no one got to, and I hoped to mention in The Round 2 That Never Happened, was the issue of who's going to teach real, college-level stuff? HS teachers can't do the algebra/geometry-level math on the GRE, nor handle the verbal section, with any proficiency, yet they're going to teach this influx of accelerated students?

Uh huh. Step 1 is smacking teacher certification/education silly, then pairing the results with excellent curriculum.

On a more positive note, I guess anything that gets kids out of K-12 sooner rather than later is a positive development. I should've just said that.